The Digby ferry has got snarled up in fishing gear – again.
The Princess of Acadia is headed for dry dock again this weekend for the second time this spring—both times due to the propulsion system fouling up in lobster gear.
Chris Hudson, co-chair of district 35 lobster advisory board, says Bay Ferries asked at a meeting two weeks ago for a clear path but the ferry isn’t always sticking to that path.
“Some days she comes right down through the coordinates they gave us and then some days she comes to the east right through the thick of the gear,” says Hudson. “If fishermen saw them coming on the exact same path every time, they’d steer clear but we never know where she’s going. She’s all up and down the bay, all over the place.”
Hudson says Bay Ferries asked for the meeting with the fishermen and Department of Fisheries representatives in early June after the first entanglement with lobster gear in May. That entanglement shut the ferry down for five days.
Hudson says fishermen have always respected an earlier “gentlemen’s agreement” for a clear path through the Digby Gut and extending out 2 km from Point Prim.
“The fishermen keep that clear, it is clear and it has been clear,” says Hudson. “We don’t want the boat shut down—it carries our lobster to market—and we don’t want to lose gear either.”
Hudson says that first agreement was needed after new lobster boats came to the Digby area and many of the new fishermen started steaming right off the Gut and dropping their traps.
“There is more congestion of gear out there, there’s no doubt about it,” he says.
The new agreement from the June meeting set out a channel extending farther out into the bay.
Hudson says he hasn’t been offshore far enough to know if fishermen still have some gear in the channel and he says the word might not yet gotten round to all the fishermen.
“But a lot of guys called me after they moved their gear off the coordinates and then saw the ferry cutting right through to the eastward where it is plugged solid with gear.”
Don Cormier, vice-president of operations at Bay Ferries says the ship would only divert from the channel if the officers saw fishing gear blocking the channel, if they saw a whale in that area or to avoid a collision.
“This is only the third time in 20 years we have had this happen,” says Cormier. “We’re not pointing fingers at anybody. Fishermen have a job to do; we understand that. We will continue to work with the local fishing associations collaboratively to find a safe way we can both use the waters effectively.”
Cormier said the situation improved by “500 per cent” after the June meeting.
Cormier could not say whether the Princess of Acadia diverted from the channel because of fishing gear or fishing operations and neither Hudson nor Department of Fisheries officials could confirm if any gear was still in the channel.